On January 10th, 2014 our rapper foreman lost his own personal battle. The following treatise has shaped much of how we as a side want to perform.
The Difference between “Dancing Rapper” and “Performing Rapper”
By Paul S. Davis
Rapper is an “act,” a spectacle, a show. It, unlike Morris, is not about some ancient fertility rite, calling a blessing on the plow, or some other facet of rural agrarian life in Jolly Olde England. Rapper is about showing off, and it evolved in a culture where the important qualities were strength, agility, speed, precision, bravery and, oddly enough, nobility.
Like vaudeville, rapper is an entertainment for the audience. Old rapper kits often look like military uniforms, just like a marching band or a drill team. The traditional calling-on song sets the scene: audience, these are not mere mortals before you. These are honest-to-goodness heroic characters, the best and the brightest. The verse runs “there are no finer men in the country, in Scotland or Ireland likewise.”
Therefore, to really “perform” rapper, beyond merely “dancing” it, you all need to have a persona, a character you inhabit when in front of the public. Pick a moment before the performance when you will assume your character’s attributes. Maybe it’s when you put on your sash. Maybe it’s when you take your sword. Pick a specific time, and, at that moment, stop being your day-to-day self and begin acting differently.
Imagine your own best quality. Your persona has 10% more of it. Imagine your worst feature. Your persona has never had it, and never will. Your persona is confident. Your persona says, “Yes, I DO run with scissors. I like running with scissors. In fact, I even play with them while I’m moving!” Because, that’s what rapper is like.
It’s not about arrogance. It’s not about showing off out of some neurotic need for approval. It’s not about trying to show that you are soooo clever. It’s just that you, in the form of your persona, are just so good, so fearless and talented that you can’t keep it inside anymore. It’s bursting out of you, this joyful excellence. It’s shining in your eyes, it’s glowing in your skin, it’s beaming in your smiles.
As you inhabit your persona, you’ll discover that it is fun to be larger-than-life. You can be stronger, faster, more skillful. It’s great! You toy with flashing steel, because you can, without fear, and with exuberance, and moving precisely at lightning speed. You are amazing!
By taking on these personas, you can subtly put that message across to the audience. It will transform your dancing. It will change the way you interact with the audience. Your personas are not shy. The audience will be drawn in, and start to feel the joy and the fun, at the core of the performance. They will respond.
This is the difference between a good rapper team and a great one. This is the trick to wowing a crowd, and, in the process, having an amazingly good time. Though it may feel odd at first, give yourself the freedom to really take on these personas. We don’t get enough opportunity in normal life to play-act, to leave behind our drab selves and become someone larger, better, more radiant. Try it. You may find, that, besides completely transforming the audience’s experience of the dance, it will also completely transform your own.
Paul S. Davis
Sound and Fury Morris & Sword
Seattle, Washington, USA
Copyright ©2005 Paul S. Davis
Paul Davis was the foreman and founding member of Sound and Fury’s erstwhile rapper side. Under his guidance, some of us learned how to loosen our ankles, all of us managed spectacularly crisp locks and most importantly, we all had fun. Paul lost his battle with cancer on January 10, 2014. He is deeply missed. We hope his insights on dancing vs. performing will influence many future generations of rapper (and Morris) dancers.